Giants struggle all over, lose to Nationals in crucial series opener

Giants struggle all over, lose to Nationals in crucial series opener

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was a moment that surely wasn't noticed by most of the 32,000 at Oracle Park on Monday night, but it tells you all you need to know about the Giants' first night back home. 

Pitching coach Curt Young walked slowly out to the mound to give momentarily wild right-hander Reyes Moronta a pep talk with one out in the eighth inning. Behind Moronta, the "MVR" ticker on the new $10 million scoreboard switched from "1" to "0." 

For the first time in two seasons since MLB limited teams to six mound visits, the Giants ran out. Young was a busy man as the mound visits remaining ticked down, but manager Bruce Bochy, hitting coach Alonzo Powell and the rest of the staff could have used just as much time with the players had they been given an opportunity. This was an ugly one in every respect, a 4-0 loss to the Washington Nationals that brought memories of April and May flooding back.

There was no offense, sloppy defense, and a pitching staff that walked eight and needed 137 pitches -- 98 by Jeff Samardzija -- to get through the first five innings. 

“It was one of those nights,” Bochy said after the game. “We had a hard time finding the strike zone. It hasn’t happened very often -- we’ve done a good job of that. It was an off night. There were some long innings there for everybody.”

This is a huge week for the Giants, with the Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies -- two teams ahead of them in the wild-card standings -- visiting, and similar matchups elsewhere across the NL. It is Scoreboard Watching Season, but the one at Oracle told an ugly story. 

The Giants lineup couldn't bring anything across against right-hander Erick Fedde, who entered with a 4.67 ERA. Samardzija's four long frames were followed by Sam Coonrod's 39-pitch fifth. 

Kevin Pillar made a spectacular diving catch in left-center but later lost a fly ball in the light evening sky. That kept one rally going. In the top of the ninth, the Nationals scored an insurance run when Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto pulled off a double steal with two outs. Buster Posey winged the ball to Brandon Crawford, who threw it back home to Posey, who whipped it back to short. Both runners were safe. 

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The end result was a seventh loss in 11 games for the Giants, who returned home and fell back below .500. 

"To stay that hot (as we were) for three months would be a pretty remarkable thing," Samardzija said. "We just need to keep our heads on straight."

Buster Posey looked like Comeback Player of the Year, Mike Krukow says

Buster Posey looked like Comeback Player of the Year, Mike Krukow says

At his absolutely best, Buster Posey can hit 20 home runs a season.

But in 219 games over the last two seasons, the Giants catcher has bashed a total of 12 homers.

Issues with the hips stripped Posey of his power, and he didn't look like an MVP-caliber player in 2019.

But according to Giants broadcasters Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, they saw the old Posey in Scottsdale, Arizona during spring training in late February and early March.

"I think what he did when we got to Arizona, is he immediately passed our eye test, where the way he was moving, the way he was swinging, he was getting his hips into his swing," Kuiper told Amy Gutierrez earlier this week. "And then it was nice to actually hear him say "Yeah, I feel really, really good this spring.' I never heard him say one time last spring 'I feel really good.' He didn't.

"He's not going to tell you how he feels. But he did tell us in spring training he felt really, really good. And judging by what we saw, it certainly looked like he felt really good."

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Krukow had even higher praise for the 2012 NL MVP and three-time World Series champion.

"I thought I was looking at the Comeback Player of the Year every time I saw him step in the batter's box," Krukow said. "It's night and day. More than a couple times last year, when we watched Buster in the box, we thought 'Is he just not seeing it? He's got no lower body.' The bottom line is, he was hurt. And we always asked him ... we quit asking him that because we always got the same BS answer. He's old-school. He's not going to tell you or anybody that he doesn't feel good because he doesn't want to create an advantage for the other team. He's going to tell you 'I'm good to go. End of story. Don't even ask me again.'

[RELATED: Takeaways from GIants' simulated opener]

"But when we got down to spring training this year and it was his first at-bat, he took the first at-bat, first couple of swings, we looked at each other and went 'Mmmhmm.' Now we want to see it the next day because we'd see it everyone once in a while last year, but you wouldn't see it two or three or four days in a row. We saw it every at-bat in spring training. And at the end of spring training, that was the talk of camp, really. We thought we were looking at the Comeback Player of the Year and I believe this. This guy finally feels good, he's finally seeing the ball and his bat speed is back, his hand speed is back and that is exciting for us."

Kruk, Kuip and Giants fans everywhere will have to wait to see a rejuvenated Posey take the field again. The global coronavirus pandemic has the MLB season on hold for an undetermined amount of time.

But Kruk and Kuip's assessment of Posey gives Giants fans something to look forward to when baseball does return.

Watch Giants-Dodgers Opening Day simulation from 'MLB The Show 20'


Watch Giants-Dodgers Opening Day simulation from 'MLB The Show 20'

Friday should've marked the Giants' home opener against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers at Oracle Park. The global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic pushed it back, as well as the rest of the MLB season, but we've got you covered with the next best thing.

You probably missed broadcasters Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow and Amy Gutierrez bringing you the sounds of summer, but all three were on the call of NBC Sports Bay Area's simulation of the game in "MLB The Show 20" that aired Friday night. Even if you missed the broadcast, you can now watch the full simulation with Kuip, Kruk and Amy G on commentary on our YouTube page.

The virtual Giants started the 2020 season on the wrong foot, and they returned home to San Francisco in search of their first win. Could they get it in a high-scoring battle with their biggest rivals? Watch to find out, and give Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic's takeaways a read once you do.